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Happy to still be in Boston, Napoli delivers

BOSTON -- Mike Napoli knows perfectly well what the standings look like these days. And he still has no interest in leaving the Red Sox.

The first baseman made it through Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline with the same team he's been with since 2013, and celebrated by clubbing a go-ahead two-run homer to spur Boston to a 7-5 victory over the Rays.

With the count 2-2 and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Napoli got the barrel out in time on Jake McGee's 96-mph heater to put it over the Green Monster, turning a 5-4 deficit into a 6-5 lead.

"It's something I can't control," said Napoli of the trade rumors. "If it happened, it happened. I want to be a Red Sox. I signed here. I love my teammates and I love to have fun playing with them on the field."

There's still a chance Napoli could go before Aug. 31 if some contending team calls the Red Sox in need of a power bat. Napoli will certainly clear waivers, given he's owed roughly $5.5 million for the balance of the season.

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Even though the Red Sox trail the Yankees by 13 games in the American League East and are eight games off the pace in the Wild Card race, Napoli hopes to stay.

"We're not done here yet," Napoli said. "We've still got 58 games to go. We know that. With this team, we can put a good run together. We're not giving up yet. We're going to go out there and play hard every day. This is our job. We get paid to come out there and perform, and we're going to come out here and play the game the right way and try to win every day."

After a highly frustrating first half that included one torrid week and several prolonged slumps, Napoli has settled into a more consistent routine in the second half.

Since June 12, he is hitting .326 with three homers, five doubles and nine RBIs.

"Coming out of the All-Star break, I got some rest, got away from the game a little bit and came back and had a good plan and stuck to it," said Napoli. "I've felt better each day. The things I'm working on are maintenance to keep this feeling that I have in the box. I'm just going to try to keep it going and move forward."

For all the veterans on the Red Sox -- and also the younger players who like to observe how a professional goes to work -- Napoli sticking around is a positive development.

"It's good to have him around," said David Ortiz. "Nap is a really good friend of mine. I know the situation he has been through this year. I always believed he would swing the bat better and he would come through. It's a good thing that we still have him around."

Ian Browne is a reporter for
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